2022 Commonwealth Games Previews: Can McIntosh Disrupt Titmus’ Distance Double?

2022 Commonwealth Games

  • Friday, July 29 – Wednesday, August 3, 2022
  • Birmingham, England
  • Sandwell Aquatic Center
  • Start Times
    • Prelims: 10:30 am local / 5:30 am ET
    • Finals: 7:00 pm local / 2:00 pm ET
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central
  • Event Schedule
  • Entry List
  • Entries (in seed order) – h/t to Troyy

After an epic clash at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky have managed to avoid one another in 2022. But Summer McIntosh is accruing all the experience she can racing against two of the greatest female freestylers in history, first taking on Ledecky at the World Championships, and she’ll now battle Titmus at the Commonwealth Games.

Titmus heads to Birmingham seeking to successfully defend both of her titles in the women’s 400 and 800 free, having completed the double on home soil four years ago. In claiming both gold medals in 2018 on the Gold Coast, Titmus became the first Australian winner of either event in 20 years.

Now, she has a chance to become only the second swimmer to win the women’s 400 and 800 free in consecutive Commonwealth Games, with fellow Aussie Tracey Wickham (1978, 1982) the only one to do so.

Titmus is the clear favorite in both events. She broke the world record in the 400 free just a few months ago, and she’s the top seed in the 800 free by nearly four seconds.

But, the looming battle with McIntosh in the 400 is one that everyone is anxiously anticipating.

Women’s 400 Freestyle 

  • Commonwealth Record: 3:56.40, Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 2022 Australian Championships
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 4:00.93, Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 2018
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games Champion: Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 4:00.93

At the Olympics last summer, the gap between Titmus and McIntosh was nearly six seconds. Titmus won an epic gold medal in a time of 3:56.69 to dethrone Ledecky, while McIntosh, just 14 at the time, placed fourth in 4:02.42.

12 months later, the margin between the two has been cut in half.

At the Australian Championships in May, Titmus broke Ledecky’s six-year-old world record in a time of 3:56.40, while McIntosh had made some inroads on her personal best one month earlier at the Canadian Trials, lowering her national record down to 4:01.59.

It was June’s World Championships where McIntosh evolved from a minor medal challenger into a legitimate superstar in the sport, first challenging Ledecky in the 400 free final before winning a pair of individual titles in the 200 fly and 400 IM.

In that 400 free, McIntosh joined the elite sub-4:00 club to win silver, clocking 3:59.39 to put her within three seconds of Titmus’ world record.

It’s only been a month. Can McIntosh realistically have further improved, enough to challenge Titmus for gold in Birmingham?

It’s possible, but her heavy schedule stands in the way.

Barring any scratches, McIntosh stands to race 10 times over the six-day competition, with the 400 free final coming during the 12th and final session.

Titmus, on the other hand, will likely race seven times, including two rounds of the 800 free, with the final of that event coming the night before the 400.

So it’s not a massive difference between the two, and McIntosh has managed to avoid any doubles, but it’s fair to presume if fatigue plays a factor for either, it will be McIntosh.

Nonetheless, it should be a fantastic race.

Including McIntosh, there were four swimmers from Commonwealth countries inside the top seven of this event at the World Championships, as Aussies Lani Pallister and Kiah Melverton, along with Kiwi Erika Fairweather, all made the final.

Pallister, 20, placed fourth in a lifetime best of 4:02.16, nearly running down American Leah Smith for the bronze medal.

Fairweather, 18, exploded for a lifetime best in the Olympic prelims last year in 4:02.28, and produced her fastest swim since then to place sixth at Worlds in 4:04.73.

Melverton, who picked up a silver medal behind Ledecky in the 800 free in Budapest, dropped a PB of 4:03.74 in the World Championship prelims (before finishing seventh in the final in 4:05.62), putting all three women in the same range heading into Birmingham.

Those three figure to be in a hectic battle for bronze, while Fairweather’s teammate Eve Thomas and the English duo of Freya Anderson and Freya Colbert are the other likely finalists. Thomas finished 13th at Worlds in 4:09.49, while Anderson (4:11.82) was 14th and Colbert (4:12.82) was 18th.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Rank Name Country Season-Best Lifetime Best
1 Ariarne Titmus Australia 3:56.40 3:56.40
2 Summer McIntosh Canada 3:59.39 3:59.39
3 Lani Pallister Australia 4:02.16 4:02.16
4 Kiah Melverton Australia 4:03.74 4:03.74
5 Erika Fairweather New Zealand 4:04.73 4:02.28

Women’s 800 Freestyle 

  • Commonwealth Record: 8:13.83, Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 2021 Olympic Games
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 8:18.11, Jazmin Carlin (WAL), 2014
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games Champion: Ariarne Titmus (AUS), 8:20.02

Though we haven’t seen her race it this year, Titmus shouldn’t have any issue in defending her title in the 800 free.

Though known best for her abilities in the 200 and 400, the 21-year-old has shown a strong ability to close the 800 free well in recent years.

At the 2021 Australian Olympic Trials, Titmus was essentially even with Melverton at the halfway mark before negative-splitting her way to a winning time of 8:15.57 (4:08.46/4:07.11), and then in Tokyo, Titmus virtually matched Ledecky over the second 400 en route to winning silver in a Commonwealth Record of 8:13.83 (splits of 4:05.92/4:07.91).

The only swimmers in the same ballpark as Titmus in Birmingham will be her Aussie teammates, Pallister and Melverton, and should one of them manage to stick with Titmus throughout the race, Titmus should have the best closing speed among the three.

Given the depth of the field, Australia appears to be a near lock to sweep the medals in this event for the second straight Games.

Pallister, who didn’t even race this event at the 2021 Olympic Trials (dealing with health issues last year including heart surgery), was on track to fight for a World Championship medal in Budapest after clocking a best of 8:17.77 at the Australian Championships in May.

However, she was forced to withdraw from the event in Budapest after contracting COVID-19 (she actually swam the prelims and qualified second for the final in 8:24.66 right before the positive test).

Melverton went on to win silver behind Ledecky in 8:18.77, meaning that if Pallister was on form, which clearly she was given what she did in the 400 and 1500 (where she won bronze in a big best time of 15:48.96), she would’ve had a medal in her grasp if it wasn’t for getting COVID.

That should only serve as more motivation for her to have a good showing in Birmingham, while Melverton has a chance for a repeat podium finish after winning bronze four years ago on the Gold Coast.

New Zealand’s Eve Thomas was also in the World Championship final in this event, placing seventh after swimming a lifetime best of 8:27.82 in the prelims.

Titmus, Pallister, Melverton and Thomas are the only four swimmers in the field who have broken 8:30, and there are only three more sub-9:00.

Canadians Katrina Bellio (8:38.12), Mabel Zavaros (8:42.16) and South African Michaela Pulford (8:42.29) are the others in the mix and should be battling it out for fifth place.

The upper hand would have to go to Bellio, a former Etobicoke teammate of Summer McIntosh, who has been 8:38 on two separate occasions.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Rank Name Country Season-Best Lifetime Best
1 Ariarne Titmus Australia N/A 8:13.83
2 Lani Pallister Australia 8:17.77 8:17.77
3 Kiah Melverton Australia 8:18.77 8:18.77
4 Eve Thomas New Zealand 8:27.82 8:27.82
5 Katrina Bellio Canada 8:38.90 8:38.12

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commonwombat
4 months ago

She can …… but the circumstances (at the end of the program) are not optimal. If Titmus is NOT having a good meet; it’s game on but otherwise; I suspect we may be waiting until next year.

Oddly, this is actually an event with a final where most are World/Olympic final quality. Would lean towards Pallister for bronze with the “qualifier” being her recovery from COVID. Either Melverton or Fairweather would be worthy.

Barring outside factors, hard to go past an AUS podium sweep in 800.

Fraser Thorpe
4 months ago

Speaking of Wickham her 4:06 feels largely forgotten due to Evan’s inhuman 4:03 – but Tracey’s WR from ‘78 remained an elite, world class time for well over 30 years

Knochen
4 months ago

I believe titmus has raced 800 in the beginning of March, with a time of 8:18.59

Yozhik
4 months ago

After 4:29 at 400IM in the intermediate meet in April everybody expected Summer McIntosh to challenge Hosszu’s world record at her major meets of the season. It didn’t happen at WC mostly because it was at the very end of the loaded meet. Challenging Ledecky at 400 on Day 1 and racing for the medals in other her events was probably the plan. Now we have similar situation. I think that improving personal best at 400IM on the first day of competition has higher priority than challenging Titmus in 400FR on the last day of the meet. I am not even sure she will be under 4 minutes.
If she swims 4:32 again in 400IM there will be a… Read more »

Yikes
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

You just love to be disappointed by children don’t you. Your obsession with Summer is plain weird.

Last edited 4 months ago by Yikes
jpm49
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

Soon, Summer will be swimming under 4.26.36 (400IM).
We will think of some head that day !

Njones
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

Reasonable points until the last one. The is zero concern regarding the legitimacy of the April 429. It was at a meet in Canada, not a historical horned of ‘fudged’ times. Plus the 205 fly at the same meet

torchbearer
4 months ago

strong ability to close the 800 free well in recent years”….she is the second fastest in history! Funny how we talk so coolly about Titmus’s 800m.

Yozhik
4 months ago

Summer McIntosh’s DOB is 8/18/2006. Yes, technically she was 14 years old in Tokyo Olympics but a few weeks away from her 15th birthday. Same now. If you treat her as 16 years old girl it will be pretty much accurate.

Canadian swim nerd
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

really impressive consistency with trying to find anything that can diminish Summer’s achievements, past or future :-)))

Yikes
Reply to  Canadian swim nerd
4 months ago

I think summer must be ignoring his fan mail or something and he’s lashing out lol. He clearly feels some strong emotional response to her which is funny considering she has no idea who he is.

Troyy
Reply to  Yikes
4 months ago

He sees her as a threat to Ledecky.

Njones
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

The sky is blue. Except at night.

Gheko
4 months ago

Can Ariarne become the only woman after Karen Moras in 1970 to win the 200 400 and 800m treble? I’d say she has a very good chance!

Jamesjabc
Reply to  Gheko
4 months ago

She is basically the runaway favourite in all 3. She set the world record in the 400 recently and was very close to the 200. The only real question mark is whether she has been keeping up with the 800.

Glen
Reply to  Jamesjabc
4 months ago

Yes, let’s not over-hype the treble in what is now essentially an intra-squad meet for AUS.

NB1
4 months ago

 Can McIntosh realistically have further improved”
she’s getting faster by the minute

Sub13
Reply to  NB1
4 months ago

If she can pull off a second taper and drop another 3 seconds off her PB then she obviously deserves to win. But realistically it seems like the only way she wins is if Titmus flubs it.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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